Telegraph Media Group chief executive Nick Hugh is stepping down with immediate effect as watchdog inquiries into the newspaper group’s sale continue.
Hugh will be succeeded as CEO by Anna Jones, who joined the publisher as an advisor in January last year to “support the executive leadership team with strategic projects, M&A and talent development initiatives”.
Jones is a former chief executive of Hearst UK between 2014 and 2017 and said at TMG she will “focus on securing certainty for our staff, subscribers and partners” amid the current ownership changes.
The change takes place despite an ongoing Public Interest Intervention Notice implemented by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, who said this week she was “minded to” open a second investigation, over concerns about the potential effect on the newspaper group of a sale to Redbird IMI, which is primarily funded by the UAE’s vice president Sheikh Mansour.
Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority are currently investigating the deal’s potential impact on freedom of expression and on market competition.
Press Gazette understands the independent directors appointed to oversee the sales process have fulfilled the necessary obligations for a senior leadership change to take place despite the pre-emptive action order issued by Frazer in December.
The order states that the company should “take action to ensure that no significant changes are made to the management and oversight of the business”. However, Press Gazette understands this does not apply as it was Hugh’s decision to leave.
Hugh has been chief executive at TMG since 2017 and has led the publisher in its switch to a subscription-focused strategy.
Mike McTighe, chair of the board of TMG parent company Press Acquisitions Limited, said: “Nick Hugh has informed us of his decision to stand down as chief executive of TMG. During his tenure, the business has been successfully transformed to a subscriptions-first business achieving the goal of one million subscriptions in 2023 with profit levels increased five-fold since the launch of the strategy in 2018.
“Our thanks to Nick and best wishes for the future. I, and the board of TMG, look forward to working with Anna and the whole of the management team as we look to secure a future for The Telegraph reflective of its rich history, vast opportunity and vital importance.”
Jones said: “I am honoured to step into the CEO role at an important time for the Telegraph Media Group and its people. Having worked alongside the exceptional editorial and management teams over the past twelve months, I know The Telegraph to be an outstanding business and media brand of the highest quality.
“Although the business is operating in a period of uncertainty due to the change of ownership process, the titles continue to thrive and my role will focus on securing certainty for our staff, subscribers and partners.”
The uncertainty at TMG began in June when Lloyds Banking Group effectively repossessed it, along with The Spectator, over debts owed by owners the Barclay family of around £1bn.
An sale process later began but the Barclays managed to take back control and end the auction early by engineering a deal that saw Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund Redbird IMI, led by ex-CNN boss Jeff Zucker, repay its debts.
Redbird IMI plans to take ownership of the news titles in a debt-for-equity swap but the deal is far from final due to the Government investigation triggered by the foreign funding.
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